It's that time of year---time for theÂ Secretary of Labor toÂ issueÂ her semi-annual regulatory agenda.Â Â Look for its publication in the Federal RegisterÂ aroundÂ the second week of December.
I'll be curious to seeÂ OSHA's timetable for action onÂ diacetyl, theÂ butter-flavoring agentÂ associated with severe lung disease in exposed workers.
- Will OSHA list diacetyl on its reg agenda?
- Will itÂ provide a targetÂ date forÂ publishing a proposed rule?
Â Â Â I'll also be eager to see OSHA's latest schedule for proposed rules to address:
- Hearing conservation for construction workers (who are not included in OSHA's 1983 noise-control rule)
- Current target date: Undetermined.Â Will OSHA provide a date for proposing a rule?
- Hazards related to cranes and derricks (responsible for 80 U.S. worker deaths annually)
- Target date was October 2007.Â OSHA's federal advisory committee on construction safety and health (ACCSH)Â recommended in October 2006 that the draft rule beÂ published in order to keep the regulatory process moving forward.Â What date will OSHA offer for publishing the proposal?
- Â Diseases related to exposure to respirable crystalline silica
- Target date to complete peer review of risk assessment: September 2007.Â Â Asst. Secretary Foulke missed that deadline; will he give us a new one for early 2008?
- The SBREFA report* was completed in December 2003.Â Will the anti-regulatory, anti-worker forces clamour for a new SBREFA panel since the previous one was completed more than 4 years ago?Â
- Diseases related to exposure to beryllium
- Target date to complete SBREFA report* was September 2007.Â Â The Small Business Administration and OSHA have not yet even convened the required SBREFA panel.Â I'm predicting that OSHA's will offer a newÂ target date of April 2008 to complete the SBREFA report.Â (I further predict that OSHA won't meet whatever target date they publish in the forthcoming reg agenda for the Beryllium SBREFA report.)
I'll also be curious to see if OSHA revises its target dates for finalizing safety standards on:
- Vertical tandem lifts used in longshoring and at marine terminals
- Target date for publishing a final rule: December 2007.Â Â Will Mr. Foulke get this rule out by June 2008--by theÂ 3 year anniversary ofÂ the close of the rulemaking record?Â Â
- Hazards related to electric power transmission and generationÂ in post-construction settings (responsible for about 50 U.S. worker deaths per year)
- Target date for final rule: January 2008.Â Let's hope that OSHA retains this January 2008 deadline and rings in the New Year byÂ issuing this rule to protect workers from electrocutions.Â Â Every month of delay translates toÂ four preventable worker deaths.
At times, I roll my eyes at OSHA's regulatory agenda and I call it aÂ joke.Â The target dates seem meaningless because OSHAÂ never meets the deadlines it sets for itself.Â But,Â I must remind myself that theseÂ schedules aren't the same as datesÂ for cleaning out a sock drawer or rearranging theÂ jars on the spice rack.
OSHA's regulatory agenda (and MSHA's too) addressÂ significant hazards that causeÂ disabling injuries, illnessesÂ and deaths among tens of thousands of U.S. workers.Â The exercise of preparing theÂ agendaÂ must be more than just changing the datesÂ for newÂ supposed deadlines.Â Every delay in monthsÂ (and then usuallyÂ years) can be calculated into actual cases of injuries,Â diseases andÂ deathsÂ that could have been prevented.Â Â The semi-annualÂ revisions to OSHA's and MSHA's regulatory agendas demonstrate an Administration's determination and commitment to the health and safetyÂ of U.S. workers.Â Target datesÂ missed and then delayed reflect poorly on an Administration's respect for workers' health and lives.Â Â Â
*SBREFA: Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.Â This law allows the representatives of small businesses (i.e., 500 or fewer employees) to review a proposed OSHAÂ standard (or EPA standard)Â before any other member of the public and to suggest changes to the rule or to the preliminary economic analysis.Â The comments, recommendations and resulting changes to the pre-proposed rule are documented in the so-called SBREFA report.
An hypothesis: the people currently running things - perhaps more precisely, their patrons - better - to put in favorable (i.e. weak) rules now - and defend them later - or to stall as much rulemaking as possible in hopes of continuing dilatory tactics after Bush 43's second term ends. I'm an attorney - but entirely a novice at this sort of legislative/rulemaking gaming.
So my guess is the answer to your questions is - how are the decision makers assessing their risk(s)?
Unfortunately, those aren't the risks they've taken oaths to assess and minimize.
Great hypothesis to ponder over a beer. In reality, we can count on one hand the number of final rules issued by OSHA in the last 7 years, and it was probably just as few in the previous Administration. This kind of "gaming" of the system may have happened in the first 15 years of OSHA, but I'd probably suggest it's not significant now because the worker H&S rulemaking system is so constipated--there really aren't any rules in play.